Famed attorney and retired Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz told Breitbart News a New York Times story published on Saturday that he has been hired “to help the defense” in the Michigan female genital mutilation case is “misleading” and “another example of fake news by The New York Times.”
On Saturday, the Times reported, “Recently, the Dawat-e-Hadiyah, an organization overseeing smaller Shiite Muslim sects, hired two well-known lawyers, Alan Dershowitz and Mayer Morganroth, to help the defense, The Associated Press reported.”
“Misleading,” Dershowitz said of the Times report. “I’ve written a letter to The Times correcting its story,” Dershowitz told Breitbart News.
“Another example of fake news by The New York Times. I hope they’ll print my letter, but you never know,” Dershowitz told Breitbart News in a phone interview from Vienna, Austria on Monday morning.
“So here’s the story. This group rejects female genital mutilation. I agreed to consult with them and to work toward an acceptance of merely a symbolic pin prick, not even of the clitoris, but just of the clitoral hood, which is the equivalent of the foreskin,” Dershowitz said of his consulting agreement with the Dawat-e-Hadiyah, the governing body that oversees members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Islam. He went on to say:
The idea really is the functional equivalent of what Jews do. If a non-Jewish kid were circumcised at birth, as many are, but didn’t have a bris, didn’t have a religious circumcision, and he wants to convert to Judaism, or his parents want to convert him to Judaism, he has a little symbolic pin prick, it draws one tiny bit of blood, and that takes the place of a circumcision, and that’s what I’ve proposed>
World wide, there are about one million members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect, which is based in Mumbai, India. Muffaddal Saifuddin is the current spiritual leader.
The sect has at least six mosques in the United States, located in Michigan, Houston, Chicago, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Fremont, California.
While it is not known exactly how many adherents of the sect currently reside in the United States, at least three of them have run afoul of the law recently in Michigan.
“Dr. Fakhruddin Attar was arrested in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Michigan Friday, accused, along with his wife Farida Attar, of involvement in the same female genital mutilation conspiracy that led to the landmark arrest last week of Dr. Jumana Nagarwala,” Breitbart News reported in April.
“All three defendants are part of a small Indian-Muslim community known as the Dawoodi Bohra, which was at the center of an Australian genital-cutting prosecution that sent three people to prison in 2015,” the Detroit Free Press reported:
In the wake of the case, an organization that oversees the Dawoodi Bohra community in Detroit has defended the group, stating:
“The Dawoodi Bohras do not support the violation of any U.S. law, local, state or federal. We offer our assistance to the investigating authorities. Any violation of U.S. law is counter to instructions to our community members. It does not reflect the everyday lives of the Dawoodi Bohras in America. … We take our religion seriously but our culture is modern and forward-looking.”
Dershowitz again stated that The New York Times got the story wrong and that he is not helping the defense of the individuals charged with committing the federal crime of female genital mutilation in Michigan:
I’m consulting–The Times mischaracterized my role–I’m not representing any of the people who are charged. I’m just consulting with the group in an effort to try to create a world wide alternative to female genital mutilation.
If we can get everybody in the world who today practices female genital mutilation, this group does not, every group in the world who practices it, if we can get them all to substitute the symbolic pin prick, which is the equivalent, for example of a 15 year old kid having your ear pierced, which is legal, it causes just about the same amount of harm to have your ears piereced as to have a tiny prick on the labial hood, that to me would be a great accomplishment.
It would also help resolve the conflict between religious freedom and the interests of the state in preventing child harm.
So that’s my role in the case, as a consultant to try and move the world away from female genital mutilation toward a much more benign sterilized pin prick.
“They don’t practice FGM, lets be clear about that,” Dershowitz said of the group Dawat-e-Hadiyah, adding:
My goal is to help create a model all over the world for groups that do practice, to be able to comply with the law. What I want to do is get the U.S. government to agree that a sterilized benign symbolic pin prick would not violate the law. I think that if we can do that we would have accomplished a great deal.
Breitbart News asked Professor Dershowitz if this is just a false flag to create the impression there is widespread use of the symbolic pin prick as an alternative to female genital mutilation when in fact the traditional barbaric practice of female genital mutilation will continue as before.
“I’m not concerned about this group,” Dershowtiz said. He went on:
This group wants to obey the law, and has been trying to obey the law. They will do everything in their power to obey. This group never practiced clitoral cutting or anything of the kind, so I am very comfortable representing this group and trying to get the law to change, or really to get the law to recognize our position, which is the law doesn’t apply to the pin pricking. If we can get the U.S. government to accept that, we think we’re going to improve both the situation facing young girls today and the freedom of the religion of the group.
So for me this presents the possibility of a win-win; a win for the first amendment and a win for young girls who would no longer be exposed to anything beyond the symbolic pin prick.
I want to emphasize the pin prick is literally no different than ear piercing and in virtually every state in the union today, parents have the right to have their 10 year old, 8 year old, 6 year old have their ears pierced.
There’s no medical good that comes from that, but there’s also no medical harm.
If you can do it for cosmetic purposes you can certainly be able to do it for religious purposes.
Dershowitz told Breitbart News he first became interested in the issue of female genital mutilation when he got a call from this group.
“I had read a few things about it. I had read works by Richard Schwader, who is a liberal anthropologist, and who has been pushing very hard for this pin prick approach. I was influenced by his advocacy as well. I met with him and met with the group and came away believing this would be the best overall solution,” he said.
Dershowitz also said he has no idea how prevalent the pin prick procedure he advocates as an alternative to female genital mutilation is in those countries where female genital mutilation is a documented health problem for women.
“I would never ever ever under any circumstances defend the practice of female genital mutilation and I want to state that on the record. I would never ever ever under any circumstances defend or support the practice of female genital mutilation. I’m not doing that here,” he added.
The New York Times was not the only media outlet to get Dershowitz’s consulting relationship with Dawat-e-Hadiyah wrong.
“Famed constitutional law scholar and attorney Alan Dershowitz has joined the defense team in the nation’s first female genital mutilation case in federal court,” The Detroit Free Press reported on June 1.